Urban smart garden

The bright idea that we almost implemented. Before we begin let’s talk about the environment.

When we consume vegetables or fruits that we bought in a grocery store we often don’t think about how they were grown, we care only about taste and how healthy they are. Many of us don’t even think about how hard to grow something or how much time it takes. There is now a very negative trend of the consumer lifestyle, which does not question where what we see comes from. Another serious problem is pollution, it’s no secret that our ecology is in a bad state. The main ecological threat as before it is a human activity. Millions of people harm nature every day without even knowing it, throwing garbage past the trash can, using various household chemicals and flushing them down the toilet, using used cars that throw away much more waste, etc. To improve this situation, it is necessary to increase the level of environmental responsibility among people, for this purpose conduct many activities, create advertising, and pass laws.

Environmental responsibility — kind of human responsibility in front of society, present and future generations of people, or in front of a specific person.

Our project’s main goal is to show people what they see every day from a different angle (where their food comes from), to develop environmental responsibility, to educate adults and children, and to give people a new platform for social interactions based on their interests. The project aims to generate and enhance knowledge of its participant’s in such fields as biology, ecology, and safe urban farming, thereby influencing the main source of environmental problems on Earth, humans. Besides, there are indirect tasks that we want to solve, its rational use of the territory, the safety of farming and food on the territory of an urban garden, and the use of renewable resources.

With this in mind, we came up with an idea to create a place where anybody can get basic ecological knowledge. This place is an urban garden. The urban garden is a green space in the city, most commonly roof, occupied by plants, urban gardens are the part of urban horticulture. Urban horticulture is the cultivation of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other plants outside or in enclosed spaces on a domestic scale.

It is believed that a garden is a place where people grow something edible or beautiful flowers or trees, but we suggest looking at it from another perspective. We propose to make the garden not only a place for growing plants but also a place for teaching environmental responsibility through the use of modern technologies. That’s how we came up with the idea of creating an urban “Smart” Garden. The concept of “Smart” Garden includes the idea of spreading environmental responsibility among people who will actively participate in the project. This means that everyone will be able to grow their plant from the seed seeing with their own eyes the whole life cycle of their plant. Also, a “Smart” Garden will allow schools to conduct biology classes there on real examples. But one of the main tasks of this project is to unite people with the same interests, including people with disabilities, into a single community, to provide them with knowledge in micro-farming, biology, and ecology that they gain in the process, and also to share this knowledge with other people.

Features of “Smart” Garden:

  • Eco-playground for education, the garden can be used for education purposes by any organization government or private.
  • A new place for people communication, events or simply relaxing.
  • Producing vegetables, fruits, or herbs, depends on what will be grown.
  • Can be accessed through the web, any person can see what happens in “Smart” garden even participate in a project from distance.
  • Green resource sources made it fully eco-friendly.

Why garden is smart?

Because we made it smart. We connected it to the internet and used modern technologies to provide new possibilities. The main smart feature is plant watering through the web we talk about it a little later.

Let’s take a closer look at a “Smart Garden”.

To meet the energy needs of the project we use solar panels to collect energy and store it in batteries. This energy will be used for watering and security. To provide water for the garden we designed a special water collecting system. Water will be collected from the roofs of nearby buildings and stored in special tanks. To create pressure so that it is possible to water the plants without any pump water tanks will be placed on the roofs too. These water tanks connected to every plant pot with a hose. When a plant needs to be watered participant only turns on and then off the valve if the user doesn’t turn off the valve it will happen automatically. Except for our watering system, participant, of course, can water their plants with their own water, this rule made for cases when water tanks are empty and “Smart” garden can’t provide enough water for every plant. On the territory of the “Smart” garden only allowed to use fertilizers safe for nature because we want to be as much safe for nature as possible. All plants will be located in separate wooden containers, which are easily made from recyclable materials, we plan to use wooden pallets, some of the containers will be made specifically for disabled people to allow everybody to join the community. Some of the containers may be used by schools or other educational organizations.

The next point of our project is that any person can join our community for free. To participate in the project anyone can just register on the website, agree with “Smart” Garden rules, and that’s it. After this, a moderator will review this request, and if there is free space in the garden (empty container), the moderator will contact the user via email with instructions, in the future, this process will be automated. All users have to renew their participation in the project each season (spring-autumn), this can be maid on the website. When a user registers on the website he can add himself in the queue for a pot in “Smart” garden to start his farming. It is 100% that we will not provide enough space for everybody who wants to grow something, that’s why we have rules, and a queue system. The queue system only works for pots with video online streaming, there are two planned for now.

Video streaming is one of the key features of “Smart Garden” which gives the possibility to participate in the project from anywhere.

An important and innovative part of the project is the remote irrigation system, this system will allow users to water plants without leaving home, or if the user currently in another city, but, for this system not to interfere with one of the main tasks of our project, creating an ecological community of people which involves a personal presence in the garden, the number of remote irrigations will be limited. Remote irrigation will be implemented with the controller (Raspberry Pi), which will be located on the water tanks, and receive the signal for watering through Wi-Fi sent from an Android or IOS application or a website. Stack of React Native + Realm + OAuth. will be used to create this application. At the moment, there are two features planned in the application, login with a personal account to the app, and watering the plants, to get the application, you can simply download it online from the App Store or Google Play. Each pot can be watered by any user, but each user will have a limited number of waterings per month nor can they be used all in one day. By this, we prevent flooding or intentional sabotage. Water that was collected previously will be distributed between pots by the controllers that will be powered from the solar panels. For watering plants, several watering methods were considered, such as rainfall, subsurface, drip, and surface. As a result, drip irrigation was chosen for several reasons:

  1. High water savings.
  2. Low probability of overflow.
  3. The simplest technical implementation among all.

Since the garden will be located outside, the watering of the plants will also be carried out naturally. In addition to the problem of lack of water, there is also the problem of excess water in accumulation tanks. To solve this problem, drainage will be made on the upper levels of the tanks, which will discharge excess water into the city sewer. But we can’t fully rely on this, so, as a backup, central water, and energy supply should be connected, if this will be possible.

As a security measure, cameras will be installed in the garden, cameras will cover the entire perimeter of the garden. The cameras will keep records of the last 3 days for security purposes and so that they can be used for shooting events in the garden. Cameras will save data on HDD on the server, self-made of course.

This measure allows us to improve security and provide a way to watch events that happen in the garden online. Most of the time, access to the garden will be open to everyone, the entrance will be completely free for non-participants, there will be a restriction on entry only in the evening, then only key cardholders will have access. At night, there will be no access to the garden at all. Garden opening hours will look like this 9 am — 7 pm — free access for anyone, 7 pm — 11 pm access only for key-card holders. In this way, we will increase safety, allow participants to work with their plants without interruption, and also allow everyone to visit the garden. This schedule can change depending on the needs of the community. To give a lesson a seminar or lecture on the territory of the garden, a representative of the organization should contact the garden moderator, and leave a request with data on the date and time for approval. For other types of events, it is also necessary to clarify the type of event. All events in the garden are free since the opposite contradicts the idea of the project. The role of the garden as a venue for events is incredibly important as in this way we draw the attention of more people to the project and the problems that we are trying to solve, and we also find new members and spread environmental awareness.

When participants get engaged in micro-farming they create a new experience that forming their ecological knowledge. By contacting like-minded people, they can increase this knowledge or even generate new events or projects in the field of ecology or farming. They will pass this knowledge to their relatives and spread ecology awareness. All generated events on the territory of the “Smart” garden is a good way to draw local attention to the environment. Biology lessons in schools can be more interesting and visual. By using solar power and collected rainwater we show by example how useful and handy can be renewable sources and how ease to use them in projects like this. “Smart” garden is a good precedent for using urban territory in a smart-eco way. We provide users with the possibility to care about their plants from distance and even just watch them. We have minimized problems that pursued urban gardens for years using modern technology. Except for this, any person can just relax in a garden for free and of course, our participants will get fresh self-made fruits or vegetables.

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Jhon Black

Jhon Black

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Front End Developer, writing tech articles about web and not only.